Chiropractors are traditionally thought of as someone you go to for back pain. However, the profession has started moving way (WAY) outside of that traditional scope, frequently claiming the ability to treat over one hundred different ailments.
This movement which appears to be a 'you have it - we treat it' type of philosophy, makes us question the validity of these claims and wonder about evidence is to back these statements up? We are not alone.
A paper published last year analyzed the content of websites of 11 chiropractic associations and colleges (listed at the end of this article) and 80 private clinics in Canada, looking for the ailments listed on the website that chiropractic can help treat.
The website of private clinics named 159 distinct conditions, with each private clinic averaging claims of 22 health conditions. Not surprisingly, the three most commonly named conditions (on both private and association) websites were back pain, headaches/migraines, and neck pain. It should be noted however, that a recent, well conducted, study showed that chiropractic was equal to the placebo in treating migraines which we discussed here.
However, its not those typical reasons for seeing a chiropractor that are most concerning - it is the other 156.
Over 30 Percent of websites contained claims of help with ADHD/attention deficit disorder (ADD), allergies, bed wetting and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Of the 156 sites, 22 included one or more of the following claims: infertility, autism, depression, vision problems, learning disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease or colitis, cerebral palsy, addiction, boils, ‘brain fog’, concussions, deafness, diabetes, discipline problems, low IQ, measles, menopause, mumps, narcolepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, reading disabilities, seizures and shingles.
Let's face it - if it is listed on the website, people are going to believe that it is true. If people had any doubt, chiropractors nudge them along by including the phrases 'grounded in science' and the existence of 'research' on their websites. And, although these science-y phrases were commonly found on websites, it was rare to find any details about the research project, design, results or name of publication.
Interestingly, the study also found that the managing company of the website may have a lot to do with its content. Twenty-three of the clinics used the same web platform company that is responsible for hosting and providing the content. Of those 23, the claims that were listed on the website were very similar and, at times, identical. For example, of the 17 clinics that used a particular company called 'Perfect Patients,' 16 identified ADD/ADHD, allergies, bed wetting and PMS on their website as conditions that could be treated by chiropractic. (the 17th excluded ADD/ADHD only, but, kept the others.)
So, the information on the chiropractic websites is being determined more by a web company than by science, which is no surprise to any of us here.
At ACSH, we are skeptical of claims that are not based on scientific evidence. And, with 20 million people visiting a chiropractor each year, and the growing number of children being brought to pediatric chiropractors, we intend to keep on top of this concerning trend.
Because, if a person with a backache wants to go and see a chiropractor - that's their choice. But, when a parent is misled to think that a chiropractor can help their children's autism, learning disability or asthma - well, that is, quite simply, a very sleazy and dangerous way to make a buck.
List of Chiropractic Colleges and Associations included in the study.
British Columbia Chiropractic Association (BCCA)
Association des chiropraticiens du Québec (ACQ)
College of Chiropractors of British Columbia (CCBC)
New Brunswick Chiropractors’ Association (NBCA)
Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors (ACAC)
Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors (NSCC)
Manitoba Chiropractors Association (MCA)
Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association (NLCA)
Chiropractors’ Association of Saskatchewan (CAS)
Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA)
College of Chiropractors of Ontario (CCO)
Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC)
Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA)